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Karnataka: Dalits Allege BBMP Encroached Their Burial Ground in Bengaluru

Land transfer orders from the Tahsildar confirm the presence of a burial site on survey number 4, Devarachikkana Halli.

Ratnamma weeps as she points at the unkempt surface behind the Indira canteen at Devarachikkana Halli in South Bengaluru. The 50-year-old says her parents and sister are buried there. 

“Our family is buried here, and we don’t have the right to question this? They covered up and hid their samadhis (graves). We are not educated. We did not even realise what was happening until they finished the construction,” she says.

Depending on whom you ask, they estimate between 30-50 bodies buried behind the Indira Canteen. 

The communities using this plot of land as a burial ground include Adi Jambavas and Madigas, both dalit castes. 

While the Adi Jambavas are Kannada speakers, Madigas speak Telugu. 

According to government records, the burial site was on 27 guntas of land (1 acre = 40 guntas). Presently, there is no sign of this plot being used as a burial ground. 


The dalits allege that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) filled several layers of mud and sand to hide the burial ground. Subsequently, an Indira canteen was constructed.

Indira Canteens were a concept introduced in 2017 by the Congress government under Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. Modelled on the Amma canteens in Tamil Nadu, it was meant to provide affordable food to the working classes. Adjacent to the canteen lies a dialysis centre and drinking water unit on the same site. Both are shuttered and lying unused.

The disputed site is flanked by residential buildings on three sides. New construction around the site has already cut off direct access to the slum in which the dalits reside. There is no sign of a burial ground here. 

However, a Tahsildar order from January 1, 2022, recognises the plot (survey number 4, Devarachikkana Galli) as a government-owned burial ground. On March 4, 2023, the plot was formally handed over to the BBMP for maintenance. 

On March 20, 2023, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), an Ambedkarite organisation based out of Tamil Nadu, held a demonstration before the Bommanahalli BBMP office. Around 50 activists and a group of dalit drummers gathered outside the office and raised slogans against the municipal corporation. They demand that the burial ground be restored and dignity afforded to dalit communities.

Speaking to NewsClick, V Murthy, Karnataka State General Secretary of VCK, says, “Indira Canteens should be located near railway stations or bus stops. Why is this canteen placed here in the middle of a residential area? The only reason is that they want to cover up the burial ground to benefit the upper-caste residents around the site. Our only demand is that the burial ground must be restored immediately.” 

Nagaraj, 29, a nephew of Ratnamma, took NewsClick to the new burial site informally allotted to the dalits. He alleges it belongs to Reddys, who are uncomfortable sharing the land with dalits. Nagaraj works in housekeeping, as does his aunt.

The burial ground shown by Nagaraj has many extravagant gravestones and monuments, all belonging to Reddys. At the back of the site is a burial site for other castes. Adjacent to that is a small plot allegedly offered to dalits. They have rejected this site. They allege that the Reddys are uncomfortable sharing a burial site with dalits. In turn, the dalits demand dignity in death. They want a burial site where they can perform their rituals in peace.

They want their old site restored, which would mean razing down the Indira canteen, dialysis centre and drinking water unit

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